After Matt's recent bout with malaria, we are very interested in never getting malaria again, any of us. However, this box of tea is probably not what we are looking for. Everyone just drinks 3 cups a day! Oh wait, disclaimer says that children and pregnant/nursing mothers can't have it. It also says something to the effect that you also have to take malaria meds for it to be effective. Um, so you still have to take the meds? And what non-effective ingredients are in it that kids and moms can't have?!? Pass. I'm good with just a picture of this one!
This last Friday we celebrated 7 years in Malawi. SEVEN YEARS!!! In some ways it has gone quickly, but especially for the girls – it’s a lifetime. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the love we have for the Lord’s work, the bride of Christ, and Malawi have grown exponentially over these years. We thank the Lord that He chose us for this work and for this place, and we look forward to all that He has in store for us in the coming years!
Floreen family May 2016 – Abigail 5 1/2 years old, Naomi 2 1/2 years old
Naomi woke up this morning yelling “Dada! Airport! Dada! Airport!” She was a little disappointed that we went to church first, but all was forgiven when we got to the airport.
The (“secret”) sign was out and ready! Naomi was a little distracted from Dad Watch by all the people at the airport who were taking pictures of the girls and their sign. =)
And then all of a sudden he was here! Abi chattered away trying to tell him about the last nine days within 9 minutes. And Naomi tried to keep up: “Dada! Hi Dada airport. Fweooooo! (airplane noise) Hug Dada, hi!” The long wait was over – Dad was home!
As happy as they were, I might have been even happier! (See the little photo bomber in our picture?) It is so nice to have Matt home! On Wednesday we will have been married 8 years, and while things are ok when we’re apart, they are great when we’re together. I’ve known for almost 10 years that I would rather go through the worst things in life with this man than the best things in life with anyone else. In God’s grace, we have gone through some difficult times, but the life that God has given us has been filled with far more of the best things. I am truly blessed to be married to this man!
I heard from several people over the course of this week in comments or emails about how “brave” or “strong” I was. I didn’t feel especially brave or strong this week. I felt that I missed Matt, but I also felt that life just continued fairly normally. We are missionaries, but I’m a mom, and a wife, and a church member, and a counselor, and a home-maker, and a friend, and a daughter. The wife part was different over the last week and a half, and some of the mom part, but the rest of life and all my other roles continued normally.
I think that sometimes, just because we’re missionaries, I want to spiritualize everything we do – or at least how I portray it. In chronicling these last 9 days, I’ve had to set aside the temptation to spiritualize things. I just didn’t have time every night to make things look all godly and perfect! =) But I did want to share about what my life looks like from day to day. It is filled with all those normal things: homeschooling, grocery shopping, telling my girls to stop fighting over who gets to play with the blue ball. My roles right now revolve primarily around raising our girls, freeing Matt up to do more things at the church and CAPA, showing hospitality, and helping the women at our church through counseling. Only one and a half of those things sound “spiritual” enough to write about in an official missionary newsletter. But really, they’re all spiritual and whether or not I’m fulfilling the roles God has given me is found in the hows and whys of what I do. I’m not Amy Carmichael, or Gladys Aylward, or Elizabeth Elliot. I’m Rachel Floreen, and I want to follow what the Bible tells me to do as a wife, as a mother, as a church member. Do I aspire to great things? Yes, and right now the greatest things I can do are raising two little girls to love the Lord. And being delighted to do whatever I can to help my husband. And visiting people in our church who are sick. And helping women to biblically navigate the troubles of life. My life, like the lives of so many moms, is lived in the “small” things. But those small things are good – so very good! – when you get to do them to please the Lord.
Unlike many of the moms who will read this blog, I get to do those small things in Malawi. It’s home for us, and we are so happy to be here – especially now that Matt’s back! I hope that these 9 days have given you a glimpse at what normal life is like for me and the girls. Thanks for following along!
It was a great day for an adventure, so we went on one!
It started out kind of like this picture below, bright and a little fuzzy. We were all a little tired, and I think our life-without-dad threshold was reached on Friday evening at the 1 week mark. But we pushed through it, and our Saturday was off to a hopping start. We chatted with my parents at 6:30am again, about an hour later the electrician arrived to replace a light switch that was melting and smoking last night (!), then at 7:45, Carol and her sons stopped by for tea on their way to James’s hockey tournament. By 8:30, we’d already had quite a morning!
By 9:15, we met up with Anita and Bethany and all the kids to drive in convoy about 45 minutes outside of town for a day on the farm with our dear friend Rene!
Hennie and Rene Pretorius live on a great farm, with a beautiful yard and lots of places to explore. It’s every kid’s outdoor dream world, even for little ones who are a bit shy.
Alli Biedebach adopted Naomi and took little Miss Shy out exploring the grounds for a bit.
Abi and Moriah were virtually inseparable for the day – pushing one another on the swing (with brother Titus’s help), running away from the boys, and organizing bean bag toss games.
While Miss Shy was still being a little coy. Raggedy Ann helped her be brave.
At one point we walked down the road to go see the cattle.
The cows are usually a little forward and will come right up to the fence, but it was hot, so they preferred the shade to us today. I don’t blame them!
Back to the lush green canopy of the Pretorius’s drive way!
While the kids played, it was so nice to catch up with these two dear ladies!
And with this gem. Tannie (Auntie) Rene is such a sweet friend to us. As Abi said when we were leaving “She is SO kind!” We always feel refreshed and blessed when we have the chance to spend time with Rene. We treasure her, and were only sad that her husband, Hennie, was out in the fields working all day.
Back to town, on another of those glorious African days.
A quick stop at the tailor’s on the way home gave us a rather pleasant surprise. ALL of the cushions were finished and ready to be picked up! So we piled them in and took our treasure home!
I may sew bedsheets, and I may have sewn the first covers for these cushions over 5 years ago, but I’m more than happy to have the tailor do these so quickly for me this time!
And they’re well done. I’m very happy with them!
By the time we got home, it was time to make a little something for supper, so the girls clomped around on their tin can stilts for a few minutes, we ate a little supper, had some quick baths, and they went right to bed. They had played and enjoyed the day with friends so much that they didn’t argue with going to bed a little early!
I figure they will need a little extra sleep tonight, because they won’t have a rest time or a nap time tomorrow – because we’re going to pick up Matt just after church! He made his flights, and we even Skyped with him when he was at the JFK airport in New York. So he’s on his way! As they say here, one more sleep!
Today is Abi’s day! I took pictures of her all day, and am going to let her explain them all to you…
I wake up at 6:45am. I laid down my buddies to make my bed. These are the buddies that I sleep with: Molly Bunny, Coconut (the monkey), and Gus the Duck.
Also when I get ready in the morning, I brush my teeth.
I cleaned up my shoes today!
I caught a frog and brought it to show to Mom. It’s tiny! Here’s a picture of it.
See the tiny black speck on the duck? That’s the frog! I saw it opening its mouth 2 times. It’s got a tiny mouth.
We spent the morning playing with Priscilla. So fun! Look what Naomi is doing! She’s putting that hat on Priscilla’s head. I’m reading a book and explaining the pictures to them.
Lunch time is hot dogs with pears and apples. Yum! I like ketchup on my hot dog. So does Naomi.
This is my favorite book, The Legend of Luke. I read it during rest time.
I love to dance at ballet. So fun!
This is my friend Maggie in the picture. We look a little bit alike, but don’t get confused – I’m the one with the buns in my hair.
On our way to the library to get some more books!
I love reading! This is at the library.
We painted a secret sign for Dad! Mom made the picture look fuzzy so Dad can’t read it until he gets home!
I’m excited to have Dad come back! I love playing with Dad and can’t wait to do it again! Dad went to America. So sad! =( But he’s coming back on Sunday!
Thank you for reading about my day!
Grocery shopping day, and Naomi is ready! One can always use an extra pair of shoes with a day as busy as we had!
I woke up having forgotten that I had 13 meters of fabric spread around our living room. Priscilla had washed and hung it to dry yesterday, but even with using the full clothesline it was still a little damp by the end of the day from being folded on itself at several points. So it spent the night getting out the last dampness in our living room. It was a strange site to wake up to though! I folded it up and set it by the door – it was going with us today…
Breakfast was a family favorite – oatmeal. With a new not-favorite – chewable dewormer. Think bitter pepto bismol. Thankfully we only had to take these at breakfast and dinner today and we’re done. The girls didn’t balk at all, after a brief discussion of what worms are and why we don’t want them.
School first before grocery shopping! Abi loves school and is especially good at memorizing, so we recently added catechism with corresponding verses. It’s been great, and especially fun because we have songs to go with every catechism and verse! Dana Dirksen put together the songs into 6 albums, and is in the process of producing the same albums in several different languages – including Chichewa!!! The first album in Chichewa is already finished, so once we’ve mastered English, we’ll work on the same catechism and verses in Chichewa!
Once school was finished, it was time to get ready to go out. This is how I usually dress when we go out. Malawians dress up to go to town, so I put on makeup, and try to dress nicely. It’s hard work to do the shopping here, and I have 2 little kids in tow, and it’s hot; so my go-to item of clothing is a maxi skirt. It’s modest, stretchy, and not suffocating. Add a top that dresses it up a little and we’re good to go.
Most Malawians don’t use car seats, but we always have. I pray we never get in a bad car accident here, but if we do, I want every chance possible that these sweet girls will be safe!
First stop was at the new mall close to our home. Business in Malawi is almost entirely transacted in cash; however, our cell phone company is starting to change that for us! We can put money in our “mpamba” account and then through our phones pay our electric bill, water bill, cell phone bill, and even wire money to someone else’s phone/account. After years of carrying wads and wads of cash, and adding more stops to our grocery shopping day so that we could pay all our utilities in person, this new services is SO NICE. They have nice chairs in the waiting area too. =)
On to see the Swan Man. For those of you who have followed our blog for a while, no, I still don’t know his name. But he’s still a good tailor, and I took a picture just to show you why he’s called the swan man.
We’ve been to see the tailor frequently of late, so much so that he keeps pretty and sparkly scraps to give to my girls now! =) Last week we dropped off a suit of Matt’s to be altered, then a few days later half of the cushions that go on our wicker furniture so they could be recovered. We couldn’t drop them all off, because we still had a couple people who would need to sit on those chairs, like the ladies who come for counseling. But we dropped all the rest of the cushions off today (and there’s the 13 meters of fabric sitting on top of the cushions), and should be able to pick up the first batch on Saturday. We’re cushionless for 3 days, but it’s ok.
From the tailors we made two quick stops: an electronics store to buy a new watch battery for Matt, and a sewing supply store to get some more elastic. We didn’t quite have enough to finish the second set of bedsheets the other day, but we do now. And some pretty shiny red trim for some skirts, and …
And then we drove to the far north end of town to a shop called Carniwors that specializes in meat. By this time we were getting a little tired and very hot, so the Abi and Naomi got granadilla and pineapple “spicy juice” (carbonated). And I let them ride in the cart while I planned out the menus for the team of 8 that is coming to stay with us in just over a week.
Oh yes, my FBC friends who are coming next week. Yes I did. Think pork – you’ll love it. When else will you get to eat it? And for $1.25/pound, it’s a great deal!
Finally, with a large ice chest full of meat, we made our way home. We had gotten all the miscellaneous errands accomplished, with only the actual grocery store yet to do. But that would have to wait. Peanut butter sandwiches and a nap were necessary first!
The girls lay down and both slept for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. I headed into my room and turned on the window box fan and the mister outside the bedroom window to enjoy a little evaporative cooling. I have the greatest husband and he makes some pretty fantastic things! Ahhhh!
And I found a little friend on the window sill. Little, as in, only about 1 inch long. We’ve seen several of these little praying mantises in the yard lately, and thanks to my inquisitive 5 year old, we’ve looked them up and know that they are actually babies. Various kinds of adult praying mantises can be 1-4 inches long, but you know it’s a baby if it doesn’t have wings yet – like this one.
After nap time, we were back to grocery shopping, at an actual grocery store this time! Abi is my list checker, and does a great job of keeping me on track. Today she commented “Mom, why are you buying things that are not on the list? You should just buy what is on the list.” Hmm, good point. Thanks. But I’m pretty sure you want toilet paper, even if I forgot to put it on the list. =)
The reason she knows it’s not on the list is because I keep my shopping lists in order of how we walk up and down the aisles in this store and she tracks with the list to know where we’re at in our shopping. I know, it’s nerdy, but it saves so much time running back and forth, especially when shopping with little ones. Even nerdier: I have a series of 4 shopping lists that I cycle through each month. Today was the Week 1 list, when I buy all our meat, milk, cheese, and frozen vegetables for the month. Next week will include a month’s worth of dog food, the following week all the tea supplies for our staff for the month… It just works out better to divide that stuff up and plan to buy in bulk when I can. And because I have a large chest freezer at home, I can.
Check out is always a little harried. I had 2 “trollies” of groceries today, so I had to put all the groceries on the checkout counter – but not any faster than the cashier could scan them because it’s not a very big counter! I also kind of keep an eye on whoever is packing my groceries into bags or boxes on the end, as it’s not uncommon for the tomatoes to end up on the bottom, and the dish soap to be bagged with the yogurt and they both leak. Paying for it all takes a bit of time too, as I have to count out the money, then the cashier has to count it all out too. Because it’s all cash. And the largest kwacha bill we have is currently worth only $1.38. So, just imagine paying for all your groceries (and those of a visiting team of 8) with $1 bills. It takes a little time and attention. Not to mention I have 2 little girls who need a little attention too. Thankfully, there’s a TV hanging at that end of the store that always plays the National Geographic channel. It’s always interesting, and evidently a bonding experience too!
We got home just before 5pm. Whew. Mission accomplished. The girls colored while I put all the groceries away and made smoothies for dinner. Like that cup Naomi has? I think most people just throw those cups and lids away after they use them, but I held on to it after a trip to Jamba Juice when we were in California in 2014. Still going strong!
The girls did great today. They were both super helpful, very cooperative, and didn’t complain! I’m not used to taking both of them with me, as Matt has set aside a couple hours on Thursday afternoons to spend some undivided time with one or the other of the girls each week. We trade off every second week, and it’s know as Abi and Dad Day, or Naomi and Dad Day. But this week, Abi declared that it was Abi and Naomi and Mom Day. I love it. It was still special as compared to all the other days we have been together this week, and still worthy of a special title!
About 2am I decided that I was going to go to the Dr first thing this morning. I should probably have gone earlier this week, as this was the third night out of four that I’d been awake debating the issue. I’d actually been putting it off because I didn’t want to blog about it. It’ll just go away, we always have tummy trouble. No need to make a big deal out of it. I really don’t want to be the oh-poor-missionary, so if you’re going to read further, you’re not allowed to oh-poor-missionary me! Most missionaries that I know in third world countries are pretty comfortable navigating the health systems of mission hospitals and clinics. If you put us in the American health care system though, that’s when you can oh-poor-missionary me. But not today.
Priscilla arrived at 7:30 and I promptly handed the girls off and headed across town. It was a grey sunshiney day that promised some great clouds later.
Our first choice for medical care in Lilongwe is the Partners in Hope clinic and hospital. It’s a nice, large facility, is open 8am to 8pm, and has several doctors on staff – two of whom are missionary friends. If you have an appointment you get to go to the special waiting area with nice cushy chairs, but for today I was in the main waiting area.
I saw Dr Jones and told him of the stomach pain I’d been experiencing intermittently since Saturday. He asked a lot of questions and had some blood work run before we narrowed it down: peptic ulcer. I knew coffee (only 1 cup a day!) had been bothering my usually sensitive tummy, so I stopped drinking it about 2 weeks ago. And then, the most recent aggravation… I’m going to guess it came from KFC on Friday night! Too much grease and my stomach just wasn’t ready for it! Sorry Abi, we’re not going back. I’ll just have to google a copycat recipe for KFC mashed potatoes for you.
Doctors’ offices are not places people usually take lots of pictures, but as I walked back to the waiting room I grabbed a shot of the 3 different eye charts at the end of the hall. The one on the right is the one I’m more familiar with. The one on the left is a capital E and you must be able to distinguish which direction it is facing. But it’s the one in the middle that caught my attention – it’s all pictures or symbols. I could see this being helpful with little kids, but I’m sure it’s in this clinic because not everyone who comes through here knows their letters well enough to navigate the more familiar chart.
Every clinic I’ve been to here in Malawi has its own pharmacy. Partners in Hope has their own as well, though it’s a far cry from the commercial cacophony of the pharmacies I’ve been to in the States. I prefer this kind. This is what I need; Here you go. And I can take care of both the clinic and pharmacy bill at the same time – which are both 100% covered by our insurance, and Partners in Hope files it for us. Thank you easy medical system.
By the time I drove home, those great African clouds filled the sky. This is such a spectacularly beautiful country, even just driving home from the doctor’s office!
I emailed Matt to let him know what the diagnosis was, and he wrote back asking if it would have been better to have had worms. Yep, it would have been. That’s what I thought it was. For worms you can take 1 pill in the morning and 1 in the evening and you’re done – no side effects, just done. For peptic acid, I take a pill every morning, an hour before I eat anything, for 30 days, and should be feeling better in 2 weeks. However, I’m glad to know what the issue is and that it is, relatively, so very easy to treat.
My medical adventure took most of the morning, but I was back in time for lunch and to put the girls down for rest time. While they rested, I met with a new lady for counseling. Do you know what I love about counseling? I love the confidence I can have in God’s Word and in the work of His Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. I’m not counseling on my own – I am merely a small part of what God is doing in this person’s life. I love that. It’s still hard work though, and especially meeting with someone for the first time. The weight of sin is heavy and it saddens me. Sometimes we bring the sadness, heartache, and consequences on ourselves with our own sin, and sometimes we experience the sadness, heartache, and consequences of living in a sinful world. Whatever the circumstances, counseling is at the same both a heavy and joyful experience for me.
Speaking of joy, Naomi Joy and I got to talk to Matt this afternoon and sent him this picture while we talked with him on Skype!
It had been a busy day, and a few restless nights this week, so about 5pm I decided that we were going out to dinner. I just didn’t have dinner-making in me tonight. So we headed to Buchanans, a cute little restaurant at a plant nursery that we’ve recently rediscovered. While we waited for our food, the girls kept themselves busy writing me notes (using a stencil!) and drawing me scribble pictures.
Spaghetti and meatballs was on the menu for the girls, and I had the least acidic salad on the menu. =) All tummies left full and content.
Back home, a quick shower for the girls and then their goodnight routine, which includes an ugga-mugga nose rub. Naomi looks like she got a little manhandled in this picture, but she’s a fan of the ugga-mugga so she puts up with it!
The girls are in bed, the house is quiet, and I’m about to head to bed myself, hopefully to sleep through the night with no tummy troubles. Tomorrow’s a big day – grocery shopping day!
Tuesday morning brings Priscilla back to our house at 7:30am, so the girls spent their morning coloring, building train tracks, and reading books with her. I was starting to feel the pressure of a backlog of items that needed to be sewn – and the very strong desire to run away from the taxes I probably should have been finishing up today – so I tackled a couple more urgent mending jobs and then immersed myself in a fun sewing spree.
I spent about half the morning with this friend. I have a very old singer sewing machine also, and today they sat side by side as I moved back and forth between the two, but this overlocker machine is fantastic. Matt was pretty skeptical when I registered for it on our wedding registry, and rather shocked when we got it! I’d never had a “fancy” sewing machine before, but after almost 8 years of good use, I can’t imagine sewing without it!
Today’s fun sewing project also had practical value: bed sheets! Abi had come with me to the old part of town a couple weeks ago to buy fabric to recover the cushions on our wicker furniture, and I think it was she who discovered the sheeting material. She fell in love with the purple stripe, and when I showed her the matching solid purple (her favorite color), she did a little dance and laughed out loud! So she now has a purple fitted sheet and a striped top sheet. And she LOVES them!
The other set of sheets is queen-size to replace an old set that was becoming brittle and too thin. But the fabric that I found for that set is amazing. It’s the (blazing brilliant!) white in the first picture, but it’s some of the best sheeting material I’ve ever seen. It’s solid, medium weight, with a smooth almost velvety feel. Think high-end hotel sheets. And the fabric cost me half of what I would pay to buy a mediocre set of sheets in America. My time counts for something, of course, but I did make 2 sets in about 2 hours, so I think I’m ok with the time!
I also ran over to see my friend Susan again. The medicine to treat the bacterial meningitis continues to work, and she was up on her feet to meet me at the door today! She had finished all the books I took her on Saturday, so I brought her 3 more books, and a little loaf of banana bread that we had made yesterday.
The afternoon was back to more routine things – Abi and I did school while Naomi slept and Priscilla cleaned out all my kitchen cupboards. About the time Naomi woke up, I started working on dinner, because I knew I needed a little extra time today. I made a triple batch of rice and Spicy Beef with Peppers stir fry, to keep one batch for us and send the rest home with Carol for her family this evening. Carol works full time and has spent the last 14 months caring for one family member or another, herself included, as their family has experienced injury and illness almost continually during that time. The Lord has chosen a serious path for this family for this time, and I have known the blessing of not only being able to help in small ways, but also to be able to see the Lord strengthen their faith. We love this family so much and it hurts to see them suffer, but we too must trust the Lord, entrusting our friends to Him.
Then after dinner, this happened:
Naomi threw a dish towel over a little side table, and Abi and I were joking with her about setting the table for tea, when Abi ran off to the play room and returned with play tea set. They played for a couple minutes, then Abi had to go to the bathroom. I sent Naomi to the playroom to find a couple missing tea set pieces, while I made some tea and filled the milk pitcher and sugar bowl. When Abi came back, her eyes got big and she jumped around and yelled “We’re not playing anymore, Naomi! This is REAL tea! I’ve always wanted to do this!!!”
So they had their little tea party. Two cups of rooibos tea apiece.
They were very careful and didn’t spill a drop.
It is nice to end the day with a cuppa. =)
Today I thought we’d spend a little time with Naomi. She’s the spunky little sunshine that around here is better known as The Bug, Omi, and Hot Sticky Honey. Believe it or not, she gave herself that last nickname! Her sweetness touches all of our lives all day long, so here’s a day with Naomi…
This girl wakes up a little slowly. Not late, just slowly. She’s sweet and cuddly in the morning, and “Happy!” She loves her big girl bed, and I’m about to remove the folded quilt because she hasn’t fallen out in weeks.
The day is on! Lots of things to do – good thing she has a little car to get where she needs to go quickly!
Omi loves to be helpful, especially putting things in the trash and turning the water on and off when Mom is getting ready in the morning.
Abi and I do kindergarten in the morning, and Naomi is convinced she’s also in school. She faithfully colors a Curious George coloring page every day, plays puzzles, and takes care of all the babies in the playroom.
Every once in a while it’s just too much to have to play by herself, and she begins to pester her sister and cry and complain to her Mom. I send her to the couch until she can stop crying, and face-down seems to be the best method she has found to stop crying.
After school we all need a little break so we head outside to play. Omi’s not quite big enough for the swings, but she can improvise!
Sometimes being 2 is hard, like when her legs aren’t as long as Abi’s and she can’t climb and do everything Abi can!
But the storm passes quickly, and Abi lets her captain the boat for a safari adventure.
Our morning ends with a trip to the library at African Bible College Christian Academy, where Abi has a membership. Naomi loves the library almost as much as Abi does. Almost. But we’ll save Abi’s love for books for another day.
We came home to discover a beautiful moth resting in our garage. Omi took a few minutes to investigate.
And then on to lunch. Apparently forks are optional today. We’re trying, but it’s hard to grow up all at once!
After a nice long nap for Naomi, we got to talk to Dad again, and then we did a little batch cooking of banana bread and chocolate chip cookies. The look in this picture? She just stole a piece of chocolate. Guilty!
All of us had funny tummies today, so we had ramen for dinner and called it good. Naomi called it very good!
After dinner, straight to baths. Poor Omi has had a bug bite on the top of her foot for several days. I’ve decided this is probably one of the worst places for a toddler to get bitten – it’s extra-sensitive so extra-itchy, it gets dirty from all the crawling around, playing, and sitting on their knees, and shoes rub it! So we’ve gone shoeless as much as possible, have used benadryl cream, and covered it with a bandaid. It’s barely swollen now, so I think we’ve almost beat it.
And then it’s off to bed! She and Abi and I sit on the floor, hold hands, and pray before the girls go to their own rooms. Then I tuck Naomi in and sing her a couple songs. Tonight it was the chorus Teach Me to Live, and a favorite old hymn of mine, Under His Wings. When I finish she always whispers to me “Night Mama, love you.” Melts my heart!
We love life with this little one, and hope you enjoyed the day with us! We’ll do a day in the life of Abi on Friday so she can share on the day she has ballet class!